As Andy Murray’s father-in-law and an esteemed international coach in his own right, Nigel Sears knows all about hype around young tennis players.
So when he can barely stop himself enthusing about the prospects of 18 year-old Emma Raducanu, who he is now working with, you sit up and take notice.
‘Quite frankly, I think the sky’s the limit,’ said Sears, not usually given to hyperbole. The latest stage of his player’s education comes on Saturday in the third round when she faces Romania’s Sorana Cirstea, one of the tour’s most seasoned campaigners who, at 31, is playing her twelfth Wimbledon.
Emma Raducanu beat Marketa Vondrousova in the Wimbledon second round
Sears has coached a string of top 20 female players, but you rarely hear him talking as excitedly as he does about the debutante from Bromley, who he has guided since April. He was not afraid to place her alongside any of them.
‘I think Emma compares very favourably in terms of material. I thought that from day one,’ he said. ‘ She has the necessary qualities and she’s hungry and eager to learn.
‘She’s ambitious and wants to do it and given the right opportunities and more match experience, she’ll make good progress. It’s really up to her how far she goes.
‘She’s handled this superbly, I couldn’t ask for any more. Very smart girl, and very grounded. She’s ambitious, and thinks big, which is one of the things I really liked about her when I first met her some years back. I just think she’s born to play tennis. She likes the stage, and she’s eating it up.’
She is coached by Andy Murray’s father-in-law Nigel Sears and he says ‘the sky’s the limit’
Within the parish of British tennis her potential has long been known about, but largely remained under wraps as she has played little over the past two years for varied reasons.
One was the completion of her A-levels, upon which her parents, Ian and Renee, placed a high value. Another was her father’s reluctance for her to travel overseas during the pandemic.
She was actually entered to play some events in Israel earlier this Spring, but that was called off when the latest Palestinian conflict ignited and missiles began to be fired.
It is little remembered that when the first wildcards were handed out for this Wimbledon, she was given one merely for the qualifying event, only for it to be upgraded to the main draw when she beat Hungarian Timea Babos last month at Nottingham.
There is a lot of hype around Raducanu after he brilliant performance on Thursday
According to LTA insiders the initial decision drew a stinging protest from the coach. It is Wimbledon which makes the wildcard decisions, not those working on the front line of the British game, which is why they are often the subject of contention.
As Sears pointedly observed, although she has played relatively little professional tennis she wins a lot. A delve into the figures shows that since starting to play in the pros at 15 she has won exactly 75% of her matches.
‘The thing is that if you look back at the few tournaments she has played, her win-loss ratio is incredible,’ he said. ‘She’s only played a few Challengers but she won one and she was runner-up in another. Her level has always been very high in everything that she’s done.’
Raducanu is notably bright, and will need to be, given the new expectations. It should also be said that, in a sometimes fractious world, she is notably popular among her GB peers.
Raducanu celebrates win against Vondrousova on Court 12 and is up against world No 45 next
Raducanu is notably bright, and will need to be, given the new expectations
‘She has an analytical mind,’ observed Sears. ‘She’s very ambitious so when she thinks about professional tennis, she’s not thinking about being an also ran on the tour. She doesn’t consider professional tennis as ‘Oh, you go out there and just play some tournaments for a few years.’ She’s all about achieving.
‘That’s what I mean by thinking big, she’s not easily impressed. And she is a smart girl. She’s fully aware of who’s out there, what’s out there because she watches a lot of tennis.’
Against world number 45 Cirstea much will depend on whether she can handle the occasion: ‘I’m not saying that nerves have never been an issue because she actually froze against Harriet Dart on the centre court at Nottingham with about five people watching.
That was a first match for a long time on a big court. But the great thing is that this has been progressive. I think now she’s ready and will respond to a big crowd as she just has got more used to it.’